Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sins of the Fathers

Let's face it. Nothing seems a bigger nuisance than when a well-meaning amateur decides to try his hand at the work of a professional. Just ask Mr. Poirot, or, in the case of Sins of the Fathers (1967), Chief Inspector Wexford.

Wexford feels nothing but annoyance when the Reverend Henry Archery goes poking into a grisly case of axe murder that Wexford closed more than twenty years ago. It's an imposition that Wexford never would have tolerated had it not been at the Chief Constable's insistence.

And so we see little and hear less from Wexford, his nose out of joint, in this second in the series that features the prickly chief inspector and his more tractable sidekick, Mike Burden, by Ruth Rendell. Instead the focus is on the desultory investigations of Henry Archery, whose son wishes to marry the daughter of the infamous axe murderer. Archery would like to prove the man, who has already hanged for his crime, innocent.

Barring that, of course, Archery would stop the marriage. What turns up in the course of Archery's questionings opens the eyes of more than just the residents of Kingsmarkham, where no one and nothing seems to be quite as it should twenty years hence.

Miss Lemon's readers have no doubt noticed the plural indicator in this aptly titled novel: for as the Reverend Archery himself discovers, not even the most chaste of men are immune to the frailties of the human condition -- a discovery, Miss Lemon might add, that makes Archery that much more sympathetic and gives the novels an absorbing subplot.

1 comment:

  1. One of my friends is just now getting into Ruth Rendell, and so a couple of us were having a nostalgic discussion about her the other day. I remember this title, but I am not sure if I've read this one or not. It's incredible that Rendell is still going quite strong--the Joyce Carol Oates of British crime, apparently.